(From the misadventures of Pran Chopra)

BHAWNA ATMARAM

Pran Chopra looked left.  Then right.  Then up and down, just to be doubly sure.  His raffia bag was casually slung over his right shoulder as he walked gingerly in the narrow streets of Port Louis looking for the mother of all treasures during the sanitary confinement in Dodoland. His wife had given him very strict instructions; either to return home with a haul of potatoes and onions for the ‘briani’ she had planned to prepare later that afternoon or to sleep in the dog kennel.

Now, Pran Chopra had had enough of sleeping in the dog kennel.  It had more or less become a habit recently and he felt his stomach grumble as he longingly thought of a most sumptuous ‘briani’. He had taken the enormous risk of travelling from Vacoas to Port Louis just to hunt for those yummy valuables which had simply disappeared.  Not a single one in sight.  Weird. Just like that! Dodoland, the fabulous land of potatoes and onions had turned into a hush phantom land.  Some desperate souls had even tried fishing for those unfindable commodities in the polluted straits of Le Caudan Waterfront. They did find a few plastic bottles. And a mattress. As well as a refrigerator.  That was it. It was a major potato and onion scandal in the country.

Bang! Lost in his dreamland, Pran Chopra had unwittingly bumped into a police officer.

“And may I know where you’re going?” snarled the cop.

“Po-po-ta-ta-toes and o-o-onions, Sir!” replied a shaking Pran Chopra.

“So you’ve lost your tongue, heh? Let me check your ID card!” muttered the cop.

When the police officer noticed that Pran Chopra was confused and hesitant, he glared at him long and hard.

“A bit of a stray, aren’t you! Come on, let’s go!” he said, removing handcuffs from his pocket.

At that moment, a million things just flashed through Pran Chopra’s mind. He thought of the dog kennel. Of how the dog had peed on him two days before. Of his wife’s fiery temper. Of the potatoes and onions. Of the ‘briani’. He then made a dash for it.  He ran and ran, with the police officer chasing after him. He bumped into hawkers, ‘roti’ and ‘dhall puri’ sellers and clients, scattering vegetable stalls.  There were huge crowds everywhere but still the police officer would not let go. Pran Chopra would be done like a pathetic little mouse.  Suddenly, just as he was about to give up, he saw something gleaming there ahead of him.  There! In the open trunk of a lorry were bags upon bags of onions and potatoes.  That was not an opportunity to be missed for Pran Chopra.  Without missing a beat, he hurled himself into the trunk and then the world went black.

When he opened his eyes next, he found himself slumped into a police cell.  As he struggled to sit up, he found himself face to face with a familiar face. That could not be! But it had to be! It was Da Gi-Yo, one of the most notorious mob bosses in Dodoland.  It turned out that he had been illicitly stashing away the country’s supplies of potatoes and onions to sell on the black market. Pran Chopra had been the jinxed macadam in his smooth plans so far. Soon, cell doors were flung open.

“Pran Chopra! You’re free to go. There’re no charges against you!” shouted a police officer.

Pran Chopra looked at Da Gi-Yo.  There was no point in asking him where he could find some potatoes and onions. Images of his angry wife and dog haunted him. As he dejectedly stepped out of the cell, he noticed with a thumping heart that the dinner menu that evening was potato curry drizzled with fried onions and rice. He stopped, scratched his head and then made a U-turn back into the cell.  There was no way in the history of Dodoland that Pran Chopra was going to miss his potato and onion priceless delicacy. He would finally get to enjoy great food and shelter! And Da Gi-Yo unbelievably sighed and went to sleep.